16 April 2019




STEVE GEORGANAS, CANDIDATE FOR ADELAIDE: Good morning and thank you to everyone for coming out today. I’m very excited to have with me today Tanya Plibersek, a Shadow frontbencher, Senator Penny Wong, and of course our candidate for Boothby, Nadia Clancy. We’re here today at the Jodi Lee Foundation where we heard of their mission and their mission is to ensure that we get more bowel screening and to do all that we can to have people screened early which saves lives. Very exciting. I’m looking forward to hearing the announcement by Tanya. South Australia has suffered a bit in the past. We’ve had $144 million cut to our hospitals. I was also very pleased to hear that all that money will be restored to every hospital that had some cuts made. But I’ll hand  you over to Tanya who will tell us more. Over to you, Tanya.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, thanks very much Steve. It’s wonderful to be here with Steve Georganas our candidate for Adelaide and with Nadia Clancy, our candidate for Boothby, and of course Senator Penny Wong, our marvellous Leader in the Senate. I think it’s quite significant that in fact Labor has two South Australians in our leadership team, with Don Farrell and Penny, of course, the Leader in the Senate. South Australia is very well represented at the senior levels of the Labor Party Federally and it’s terrific to be here with Nadia and Steve as well.

Today I want to talk about the contrast, the contrasting visions that Labor and the Liberals have for Australia and particularly for South Australia. Labor is all about a fair go for South Australia. The Liberals are only about chaos, cuts, and division. Labor is all about investment in our health, our hospitals, our schools. The Liberals are about cuts to health and hospitals, cuts to schools but bigger tax breaks for the top end of town. I’ll talk in more detail in a minute about those health announcements. But I want to draw your attention to one more area of sharp contrast between the Liberals and Labor. The Liberals are divided and dysfunctional. They are chaotic and at each other’s throats. We’ve had a stable and united team for six years. The Liberals have had three Prime Ministers and three Treasurers, countless ministers, countless policies raised and knocked over. Labor, in contrast, has had a stable and united team under Bill Shortens’ leadership. I’ve been the Deputy for that whole six years and Penny, as I say, has been a senior contributor as our Leader in the Senate for that whole time. We’ve got a team that is united and focused on the policies that will make life better for Australians.

Today’s announcements are just one example of that. As Steve has said, it’s vital that we restore the $144 million cut from South Australian hospitals. And I’m so proud to say that Labor, if elected, will restore every dollar of those cuts. I think, Nadia, the cut from the Flinders Medical Centre is $5 million.  And of course all of that funding is restored to that very important health facility in Boothby, if Labor is elected. It’s so sad to see that Nicolle Flint is prepared to go to Canberra and vote for those health cuts that so badly affect the community of Boothby that she represents. So, of course, we restore the cuts to hospital funding. We also are announcing today that $16 million would be available for an elective surgery blitz. In South Australia, that $16 million is the equivalent of 1,000 hip replacements or 1,000 knee replacements or 4,000 cataract surgeries. Now, these are called elective surgery, but anybody who’s ever lived with a hip or a knee that needs replacing knows that this isn’t optional. This is desperately needed treatment and the fact that waiting times have blown out right around Australia because of Federal government funding cuts to hospitals is a tragedy. And we see an average increase in waiting times of 10 per cent across the country and that is simply down to the fact that the Liberals and Nationals in Canberra have continued to cut hospital funding around the country. Hospital funding is not keeping up.

And in addition to this very important announcement today of $16 million of extra funding for elective surgery in South Australia, I’m really delighted to announce that Labor, if elected, would work with the Jodi Lee Foundation to increase bowel cancer testing rates. Everybody when they turn 50 receives a little package in the mail, a bowel cancer test, and it’s such an easy test to do and it saves so many lives. We heard this morning from people who had caught their cancer early. Bowel cancer is a very treatable cancer, 90 per cent of bowel cancer is treatable if caught early. We heard from people who caught their cancer early, sometimes almost by accident. You think about how different life would be if that hadn’t happened. We also very sadly have heard from people who’ve had family members or loved ones who didn’t catch their cancer in time, who have lost family members because of bowel cancer. This is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer, and as I say, if we catch it early, so treatable.  We really desperately need to increase the rate of people who are returning their bowel cancer screening tests, particularly those people who get it for the first time when they’re 50. We see only just over 40 per cent of people who are eligible to do this free test actually doing the test and returning it. It’s just nuts really because this literally saves lives. It’s such a simple test to do. In fact, the Jodi Lee Foundation has done excellent work in getting more people to return their test and what’s really important here is if we can get screening rates up, if we can actually get more people returning the test as they should, we can save 83,000 lives between now and 2040. What a difference that makes. I mean, this is tests that are already being delivered into people’s letterboxes. People just doing the test and returning it at higher rates, we can save 83,000 lives between now and 2040.

So in a couple of minutes, I’ll ask Nick Lee the founder of the Jodi Lee Foundation to say a few words, but before that I’d really like to ask Nadia Clancy just to make a few comments about how these announcements affect the electorate that she’s seeking to represent, the electorate of Boothby.

NADIA CLANCY, CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY: Thanks Tanya. I’m really proud of Labor’s policy announcements across health and hospitals. This makes a huge difference to people’s lives in the electorate of Boothby and across Australia. People in our community desperately need that healthcare and even just on Saturday when I was doorknocking, I met a woman who was recently, a few months ago, diagnosed with blood cancer. She’s on the Disability Support Pension because she’s unable to work with that cancer and she was so relieved when she heard our announcement about our cancer care plan because she can’t afford those out-of-pocket expenses involved in scans and she needs to be able to get her health, she needs to be worried about her health, and she shouldn’t be worried about whether or not she can pay to get better.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks very much. We might ask Nick to come up and say just a few words about this project that you’re doing?

NICK LEE, FOUNDER, JODI LEE FOUNDATION: Thank you, Tanya. My name is Nick Lee,  I’m the founder of the Jodi Lee Foundation. I lost my wife unfortunately to bowel cancer at the age of 42 and in 2010 set up the Jodi Lee Foundation. And you heard the statistics. It’s a prevalent cancer – Australia’s second biggest cancer killer – yet it’s preventable. So all of the focus of the Jodi Lee Foundation over that period of time has been around early detection, prevention and education. And the biggest job that we need to do is to convince those that receive the screening test to take that test. It’s a very simple test. The disease is preventable. We really want to encourage people to take the next step once they receive that and complete the test and send it back. Our own modelling shows that if we can increase the age group from 50 to 59, from where it currently sits at around 30 per cent participation, up to 50 per cent, we will save the health system $1.8 billion and save 965 lives. So from a human level and an economic level it really stacks up. I’m turning 50 in the next 12 months and I know at least one person behind me is also turning 50, I won’t nominate who, so I’ll be taking that test and really, the contribution towards increasing screening participation is a real game changer. We’ve had quite a big deal of success at increasing participation through various campaigns but with this level of of funding and support, we really believe we can step change that and obviously as I said, the impact on on particularly a human level is extraordinary. So I really appreciate the support and thank Tanya,in particular, for your support over many years dating back to 2012. So we’re thrilled and we just can’t wait to get going.

JOURNALIST: Can you say what practically you can do to try and get more people to return those tests?

LEE: Look, the big challenge when people receive the test, if you look at when people are first eligible at the age of 50, only 28 per cent of people are actually returning that test. So really, you need to get to those that are first eligible and actually once someone has done the simple test and they realise how easy it is, the re-participation rate is over 70 per cent. So that’s the big challenge, getting people to use the test for the first time. And so our research shows that, like me, when you turn 50, you don’t feel like you’re 50, you feel like you’re actually 30 and you’re not really in the mode of thinking about screening and so we’re going to have a campaign where we use very high identity, high-profile, well-known people who are turning 50 to support the campaign to encourage those 50 year olds to know that that is the time to start thinking about screening, particularly when you have got something like bowel cancer that is so prevalent and so preventable so we know the same program has had a huge amount of success in the US and we’re (inaudible) Here in Australia and they increased screen participation by 25 per cent so you can imagine the impact at a human level and the amount of lives we can save if we can replicate that.

JOURNALIST: What reasons to people give for not doing tests or not returning the tests? Just lazy or just ‘Not going to happen to me’?

LEE: Yeah, look, there’s a lot of those types of explanations that are given and certainly there is seemingly a real reluctance in relation to bowel cancer, to do what is a very simple test and that’s why I said, you know, once people have done it they realise how simple it is but taking that step they feel it’s a bit icky. Where it’s not really and obviously I’ve seen the other side of bowel cancer. I know the impact it can have on family and friends of someone not being detected early. So we’re out there obviously trying to encourage as many people to take that simple test as we possibly can.

PLIBERSEK: We might have Julie to come up and say a few words as well. Thanks Julie. Just introduce yourself.

JULIE MARKER:  Hi, I’m Julie, a 3 times colon cancer survivor. And I guess my main message is don’t think that just because you’re young and fit and have a healthy lifestyle, that that doesn’t mean that you can’t get bowel cancer. You can and so you need a screening test to be able to pick that up early and it seems ridiculous that we’ve got something like 60 per cent of these kits going into landfill. They are sent to people’s houses and people are not doing this fairly simple screening program. So I don’t want other people to have to go through what I’ve had to battle with to survive cancer. And, so many people, if you’re diagnosed late, it’s not always a cancer that can be can be turned around. It’s not just a screening program. We’ve got to have the colonoscopies and the funding so that people in the public system get timely access to the further diagnosis that’s needed after the screening program if it’s come up with a positive test. And if we can have some research that improves the program, the screening programs, as well. But raising awareness, getting more people to be doing the screening tests is really important.

PLIBERSEK: That’s wonderful, Julie. Thank you very much.

MARKER: Thank you.

PLIBERSEK: OK? Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just one of the issues raised there was about colonoscopies. We know with increased screening we now are facing huge backlogs with colonoscopies. Will the elective surgery funding cover that kind of issue?

PLIBERSEK: Well, colonoscopies are part of our $2.6 billion cancer plan and they’re a very important part of our cancer plan because as you say, the backlog is very serious and we were talking to Julie earlier and the fact that she had to wait months to get her colonoscopy did have an impact on her treatment options. We are very well aware that colonoscopies need to be provided more easily in a timely manner to public patients, as well as being more broadly available across Australia. There are some parts of Australia where waiting lists are very long indeed, up to 18 months.

JOURNALIST: Just on another issue. The Labor MP Josh Wilson said the Israeli check points are where people go to die. It comes on the back of Melissa Parkes’ anti-Israeli comments. Do you think that he’s fit to represent the Labor Party?

PLIBERSEK: Well both, Josh has said very clearly that he supports Labor policy, which is for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace and security. I’m happy for Penny Wong, our Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs to add to this answer. Do you want to say a few words Penny?

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much. Well, I have seen what the Coalition are trying to do today and I would remind people that the Israeli Ambassador has issued a statement today and he’s made some very good points. He made the point that his comments were generic. He’s made the more important point that the relationship with Israel, the strong relationship that Australia has with Israel, is a bipartisan relationship. It enjoys bipartisan support and that it would continue as a strong, close bilateral relationship regardless of which Party wins government. That bipartisanship is important, has been important, through history and I would counsel the government to take care in trying to make in the election campaign this issue a partisan issue when they know full well the policy of the Labor Party, a two-state solution as Tanya has said, the right of both the Israelis and Palestinians to live in security behind recognised and agreed borders. That is our position. It’s a position Josh supports.

JOURNALIST: So that means that you do think that Josh is a good representative-

WONG: Josh is, he supports the Labor Party’s position on this and I would again say the relationship with Israel has been a bipartisan relationship. It has been a relationship which both parties of government, in government, have supported. That is reflected in the Israeli Ambassador’s statement today and I would counsel the government to seek to, to stop seeking to make this a partisan issue. I don’t think as supporters of the relationship with Israel that is a sensible thing to do.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, do you mind if I ask? The Prime Minister today sort-of dismissed a few questions about the Member for Deakin who supported Peter Dutton in the Liberal leadership spill, he said today that was just Canberra bubble talk and that it’s not important. Do you agree?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think lots of Australians are still scratching their heads about why Malcolm Turnbull isn’t the Prime Minister and for those people who backed Peter Dutton in his attack on Malcolm Turnbull, in the chaos and division that followed, really do need to answer to their constituents why they thought Peter Dutton would be better than Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister of Australia. Of course, Peter Dutton ultimately wasn’t successful in his bid. And I think, on the one hand, you could criticise Peter Dutton for not being able to count to 43. On the other hand, you have to ask yourself why it is that 40 members of the Liberal Party actually thought that he should be Prime Minister? Do those people still share that view? Do they still think that he would be a good Prime Minister of Australia knowing what we know now?  Knowing that he was voted by doctors to be the worst Health Minister in living memory? Knowing that on the very first day, very first outing into the Federal media during this election campaign, the only thing that people have noticed about Peter Dutton is him attacking a woman with a disability for her disability. I, truly, he’s not a particular adornment to the Liberal Party or the National Party, the LNP as it is in Queensland. I think it is fair to ask people who’ve been his backers why they back him and whether they still back him.

JOURNALIST: Does Labor have a have a problem with race and religion? You did say that Indian companies can’t be trusted to create jobs.

PLIBERSEK: Honestly, I think it is very important to say that Labor’s policy on the Adani  mine is to follow the law and follow the science. That this project has to stack up environmentally and economically. I think it’s very important to also say that the voters of central and north Queensland can’t be relying on any one company to deliver the jobs they need for their future. Labor has strong policies that will deliver jobs for Queensland and they include investment in rail, in ports, in roads, in airports. There’s the construction jobs that come from building that infrastructure and there’s also of course the boost to tourism, agriculture and other industries that come when we invest in this sort of infrastructure.

JOURNALIST: Senator Wong, Pauline Hanson is in South Australia today. Given that, you know, we don’t have Nick Xenophon running creates a bit of a vacuum in that third party space. Do you think South Australians might turn to One Nation?

WONG: Well, I think South Australians and Australians have pretty good judgement when it comes to Pauline Hanson. I think people know, not only her views about race and religion and her, frankly, hateful speech but as importantly, you know, its a party of con men and  charlatans. It’s a party that goes off to the US, tries to get money from the NRA in order to water down Australia’s gun laws. But the real question here is Scott Morrison. I mean, Scott Morrison, we know, despite calls from across Australia, calls from  within his own Party, including from South Australia, to make sure he puts One Nation after the Labor Party as we have done for 20 years, the Labor Party has preferenced her after the Coalition, after our opponents, because it is the right thing to do by the country. What has Scott Morrison done? He has continued to hold onto her. And you even see Mr Howarth today, the Member for Petrie, pleading for her preferences. Well, it looks like a preference deal, it sounds like a preference deal, it is a preference deal and I think the message from middle Australia to Scott Morrison needs to be “This woman isn’t fit to be in the Parliament and she certainly not fit to be calling the shots if you’re re-elected because you’re elected on the back of her preferences”.

JOURNALIST: You appeared to bristle at Sam Crosby’s jibe yesterday when he said hello in Mandarin.

WONG: Bristle? I thought it was hilarious. No, no, I don’t know who told you that but I thought it was very funny. It was a very pointed, I think, it was very pointed.

JOURNALIST: Did he go too far.

WONG: No absolutely not, but I would I would make the point. You asked about race and religion, which is a provocative comment. There is no major party in Australia that has been more consistent on the need for acceptance, respect and tolerance and its support for multiculturalism than the Australian Labor Party. And we reflect that in our candidates, in the multicultural backgrounds of so many of our candidates and in our policies and it’s about time that Mr Morrison starts to reflect what has also been previously a Liberal Party tradition, which is to stand up against those who peddle racism, hatred and prejudice. I think it’s about time he did so.

JOURNALIST: Tanya can I just ask you in regard to Pauline Hanson, what do you make of the slide in support for One Nation in today’s poll? Is that a reflection of what’s been happening lately?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think maybe people are cottoning on to the fact that Pauline Hanson tells them that she’s the workers friend, and the pensioners friend when she’s out in the electorate, but when she goes to Canberra she votes with the Liberals. She votes with the Liberals to cut school funding. She votes with the Liberals to cut health funding. She voted with the Liberals to cut pension funding. You can’t call yourself the friend of the pensioners and then go to Canberra and vote to cut pensions. Maybe people are catching up with the fact that she is, well, she is very dishonest in the way she portrays herself when she’s out on the hustings, compared to what she actually does when she’s in Canberra.

JOURNALIST: I believe she said she’ll be targeting the seat of Grey. Do you think, whether yourself or Penny Wong?

PLIBERSEK:  Penny, do you want to talk about this?

WONG: Well, that’s fine if she wants to do that. I mean, what I’d say again is even if there’s you know, unlike the Coalition, unlike Scott Morrison, even if people think there might be some benefit, electoral benefit, we won’t be preferencing her anything other than after the Coalition. That’s the right thing to do by the country not just because of her views which are, I think, inconsistent with where most of Australia is, but this is the Party that is con men and charlatans. I don’t think anybody could have watch those reports and not have recognised what was going on and going to another country to try and get money to water down the gun laws is a pretty extraordinary thing. Can I come back to the question about Peter Dutton? I would make this point. Nicolle Flint was one of the people inside the Coalition who signed the petition to get rid of Malcolm Turnbull and she signed it, I think, just under Peter Dutton, you know, she’s obviously one of his great supporters. She was asked on radio, I think, six times today to explain that decision and she refused. Well I think the people of Boothby are entitled to an answer.

PLIBERSEK: That’s right. Any questions? Thanks.

JOURNALIST: Maybe just on the Jodi Lee thing, is 50 young enough for the screening program?

PLIBERSEK: That’s based on the best scientific advice we’ve got so all of these cancer screening programs are based on the best scientific advice that we’ve got. When Labor was in government, we did expand the age range for the availability of the test, but we expanded it on the basis of the scientific advice at the time. Thanks.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.